Dancers twerking in front of military leaders: the editing error that sparked a scandal in Australia

Contrary to what was suggested by this video shared
by Australian media outlet ABC News, some of these high-ranking army officials didn’t attend a show by dancers from the 101 Doll Squadron.
Contrary to what was suggested by this video shared by Australian media outlet ABC News, some of these high-ranking army officials didn’t attend a show by dancers from the 101 Doll Squadron. © Observers

Australia is in uproar over an incorrectly edited video of a dance performance that was posted to the website of television channel ABC News. The channel put together footage of a dance group performing at the inauguration of a new Navy ship April 11 with footage showing several high-ranking army officials ... who didn’t actually attend the event. Australians poured onto social media to criticise the dance troop for their sexy moves and accuse them of being disrespectful. 


Australian television channel ABC News was forced to retract a video it published on its website and social media showing a performance by a dance group in honor of the inauguration of a new Australian navy ship on April 11. The dancers wear tight, revealing clothes and their athletic dance includes moves like twerking.

The following footage shows several high-ranking officials gazing at the spectacle with impassive or even perplexed expressions … even though some of them hadn’t actually attended the performance. 

"Misleading information"

The dancers were the first to respond publicly to the furore. The 101 Doll Squadron, the name of the group, posted a “story” on social media where they denounced the misleading edit put together by the TV channel. They disputed the chronology implied by the video, stating that they had performed before the official event and the arrival of the Navy chiefs. 

"These two consecutive shots might be the funniest thing the ABC has ever broadcast", posted Australian journalist Cameron Wilson. 

Other viewers didn’t respond so kindly, instead attacking the dancers on social media for their choreography. The dancers said they felt so threatened that they deleted their Facebook page and made their Instagram account private.

"We have asked ABC for a public apology," said the director of the 101 Doll Squadron, Maya Sheridan, according to Australian daily the Sydney Morning Herald. They also sent a letter to the channel on April 16.  ABC, for its part, apologised to military officials, but not the dance group. 

Politicians speak out

ABC News did update the video. They also released a press statement on April 15 about the scandal, which was quickly dubbed "twerkgate" amongst the Australian public. “The video should not have been edited in that way and the ABC apologises to the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy, and to viewers, for this error,” the statement reads. 

Some of the station’s journalists, such as presenter Michael Rowland, said they regretted that the scandal had become so high-profile. 

A number of high-ranking officials in the Australian army attended the inauguration of the new vessel. In the initial video, several cutaway shots suggested that Governor-General David Hurley, Navy Chief Michael Noonan and Chief of Defence Angus Campbell had also watched the 101 Doll Squadron performance.

“This was incorrect. While the Chief of Defence was present, the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy in fact arrived after the performance,” ABC’s statement explains. 

ABC also highlighted that their journalists had been given erroneous information about who attended the event by a political official. 

"Our reporting team initially believed they were present both because they were shown in footage of the event and because a Government MP had said that they were present," reads the statement. 

'Shitshow' and 'upskirting'

"Twerkgate" even got attention from even the uppermost echelons of government. One senior member of parliament called the event a "shitshow". Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was "disappointed” by the way ABC had covered the ceremony. 

Aside from the scandal around the misleadingly edited video, some critics also complained about the performance, claiming that it wasn’t appropriate to invite a group specialised in dancehall and afrobeats. Defence Minister Peter Dutton revealed that he had reprimanded the event organisers. One senator, who had previously served in the army, called this decision “an absolute shock".

The 101 Doll Squadron also complained that ABC had filmed "from an angle which no audience member could see”. They compared it to upskirting. 

In the statement, ABC News denied that they had treated this performance any differently than any other. 

The footage “was shot in a standard manner, from the same position as other parts of the ceremony". The station did contact the dance group, according to one of its spokespeople, and wants to discuss the matter with them.